From elegant, furry kitties you see on commercials and movies to slender, sleek felines illustrated in ancient books and paintings, the Asian continent has produced some of the most beautiful cat breeds in the world in the past hundreds of years. Learn more about the more popular ones, like the Persians and Siamese, and lesser-known yet equally adorable, such as the Korat, in this list of the feline breeds that trace their roots from Asia.
Tracing its ancestry from Thailand, the Siamese cat is deemed to be one of the oldest cat breeds in the world, with the earliest depiction of the breed seen in books in the 14th century. It is an all-around breed, elegant, sociable, intelligent, loving, and extremely vocal. Have the Siamese around, and there’s no single time that you won’t be entertained.
As you probably already know, the Japanese Bobtails hail from the Land of the Rising Sun, renowned for its bunny-like tail. These cats are fun-loving, sweet, and intelligent felines believed to have reached the country after being given as gifts to a Japanese Emperor and served not as pets in the palace but also guarded granaries and silkworm factories.
Also known as the Dragon Li and the “fox flower cat,” the Chinese Li Hua is believed to have thrived in the wild for hundreds of years before domesticating itself through time. Today, the Chinese Li Hua is admired for its unbreakable loyalty to its masters and its happy-go-lucky personality towards children.
Originating from Burma or now Myanmar, the Burmese cats’ progenitor is a walnut-brown cat named Wong Mau who was brought from the country to the United States and was then bred with a Siamese, marking the foundation of the breed. Just like their cousins, the Burmese are known for being affectionate, brilliant, loyal, and chatty behavior.
One of the smallest cat breeds, the Singapura has a shrouded history as they were believed to be street cats taken from Singapore and developed in the United States before brought back to their country. Amidst speculations that the breed is not native to Singapore, the feline serves as the country’s national mascot, and sculpture can be seen by the Cavenagh Bridge riverbank.
A breed that withstood Russian’s subarctic taiga, the Siberian, or the Siberian Forest Cat, is believed to have existed for around 1,000 years. It was only in 1990 when they were first brought to the United States and now revered for their incredible mousing skills and their sweet and engaging temperament.
The Korat is another breed that originates from Thailand, renowned for its silver-blue coat, stunning emerald green eyes, and well-muscled physique. Despite being related to the Siamese, these cats are very placid, dislike sudden noises, and tend to move cautiously and timidly.
Another feline breed with the Siamese lineage is the Oriental, which is fundamentally a Siamese cat with different coat color and pattern, available in around 300 combinations. These cats are slender, nicely-muscled, with a long neck, nose, tail, and almond-shaped eyes. Orientals are renowned for being a kind-hearted, highly social, and fun-loving breed of cat.
9. Turkish Van
While further developed in the United States, the Turkish Vans trace their ancestry in Turkey’s largest, Lake Van, and are believed to have thrived far from human interaction across many centuries. Dubbed as the “Swimming Cats,” these felines have a big heart for water and sport a water-resistant coat. Expect them to be happiest engaging in water expeditions, such as playing in the sink, opening faucets, or simply enjoy taking baths.
The Tonkinese is developed in Canada, but its progenitors are two prominent Southeast Asian feline breeds, the Burmese and the Siamese cats. The result is a fairish-sized cat, with a nicely-muscled body, with a short, fine, silky coat. In terms of personality, it balances its parent breeds’ traits, making it a gregarious, intelligent, and loving feline companion to have at home.
11. Turkish Angora
A naturally occurring breed believed to have existed in Ankara (formerly Angora), Turkey, the Turkish Angoras are exquisite long-haired cats with soft, lustrous fur that caught the interests of many Europeans when they first arrived in the region. However, as the Persian cat rose to popularity, the breed was put on the brink of extinction. Thanks to conservation efforts made to save the breed, the Turkish Angoras continued to be abundant and prized in their homeland.
Legends say that the Birman originated from a cat from the Asian temple of Sinh. The feline used to accompany a priest in worshipping the temple goddess, who soon rewarded the cat with her own features. Nowadays, the Birman is revered for their gentle personality, sweet voices, and veritable affection.
Best-known for their grandiose looks, and long, thick, glossy fur partnered with a sweet, docile demeanor, the Persian cats are easily one of the most popular cat breeds in the United States. These felines are deemed to have existed in Persia (now Iran) and then brought to Europe and bred to other cat breeds, marking the beginning of the Persian cats. From there, they were revered by royalties, including Queen Victoria, and soon catapulted to popularity in many countries.
14. Khao Manee
Appearing in the classic Thai literature as early as 1350, the Khao Manee, which means “White Gem,” is an active, outgoing, communicative, and sociable cat. Odd-eyed Khao Manees are sought after as they are deemed to bring good fortune and longevity to the owners.
15. Mekong Bobtail
The Mekong Bobtail is a cat breed that shares its lineage with the Siamese cat and was named after the river flowing through different Asian countries. However, it was in Russia where the breed was further developed before becoming known in other nations. These kitties are well-loved for their friendly, intelligent, playful, and chatty behavior, much like its parent breed.
Fondly called the “Himmy,” the Himalayan is a product of cat enthusiasts’ never-ending creativity, crossing the Siamese and the Persian cat. The result is a feline with the former’s pointed marking and striking blue eyes and the latter’s long, silky coat. Thriving in human companionship, the Himmies are well-adored for their calm, sweet, and charming personality.
17. Egyptian Mau
Believed to be the cats domesticated and revered by ancient Egyptians around 4,000 years, the Egyptian Mau is the only cat breed with a naturally spotted coat and is considered the fastest domestic housecat. These cats are fiercely loyal to their humans and boast a friendly and playful demeanor.
Originating from Russia, the Donskoy cat is a hairless cat, resembling the Sphynx, but differs by having a rather dominant gene. While it is a relatively new breed, these cats are known for their friendly, active, and devoted personality, often compared to that of dogs.
19. Kurilian Bobtail
Another cat with Russian roots is the Kurilian Bobtail, coming from the country’s Sakhalin Island and Kuril archipelago. These felines are best known for their well-balanced, peaceful, and trusting character. Plus, they are generally healthy and get along well with children and other pets, making them a fun addition to any home.
20. Russian Blue
Dubbed as the “Archangel” cats, these felines are believed to have reached the UK in 1860 after British sailors brought them from Russia’s Arkhangelsk Port. The Russian Blues are known for their gentle and timid personality, perfect for first-time owners looking for a less social yet still loving feline to have as a company.
The Balinese cats’ name doesn’t reflect their country of origin, as they are developed in the United Asian. However, these felines trace their roots from the Siamese and are actually the long-haired variety of the breed. In fact, these plumy-tailed cats were first registered as the “Long-haired Siamese,” yet many Siamese fanatics opposed the idea. With that, the breed was then renamed to Balinese, citing their resemblance to Balinese dancers.
Same with the Balinese, Javanese cats don’t come from Indonesia. These cats came from breeding the former to Colorpoint Shorthairs. To continue the Indonesian island theme, they were named the Javanese. While boasting a sophisticated look, these felines are actually playful and active cats, with an endearing and chatty personality.
Despite being developed in the United States, there’s no denying that Bengal has Asian blood as they are the product of crossing domestic cats and the Asian Leopard Cats. These cats are super brilliant, curious, and pack a lot of energy, making one of the most active breeds among its Asian cousins.
Asia indeed has contributed a lot of stunning and adorable felines to the cat world. If you’re enticed to keep one of these Asian cats as a pet, see to it to assess its personality, grooming needs, energy level, and sociability to know if it would fit you and your loving home. Getting a cat is a long-time commitment that would entail taking care of the cat you will choose throughout the feline’s life. It is best to have a breed that could truly spend your time, effort, affection with and be your best feline companion.